Mushroom Tinctures vs. Powdered Extracts: Which are Better?

The debate about Mushroom Tinctures vs Powdered Extracts is a longstanding one, especially now with various mushroom products are now available as health supplements. Although they might be sold with disclaimers about not being intended to treat, prevent, or cure disease, these substances are generally marketed under the implicit assumption that they will be used to treat, prevent, or cure disease anyway; they are popular alternative medicines regardless of the disclaimer.

Many mushroom species have been shown to contain substances with medicinal potential, and some have successfully treated or prevented certain diseases in experimental animals—though very few have been clinically tested in humans. Even fewer have been approved for use as medicine, putting most medicinal mushrooms in a hazy category where scientific research supports their effectiveness but does not actually prove it yet.

But assuming a given mushroom does have medicinal power, how should a consumer go about using the medicine? Embracing alternative medicine means doing without certain safeguards—quality can vary widely, and labeling can be unreliable. So what can a person look for?

It turns out that one of the most important details to look at is the process by which the mushroom product was made[i]. Fungal cells are strengthened by chitin, a substance we humans cannot digest well. Many people cannot digest chitin at all, meaning that when we eat intact fungal cells, those cells (and any medicinal substances inside them) exit our bodies as waste still intact, like unopened presents.

The key is to process the mushroom so as to break down the chitin and make what’s inside those cells bioavailable[ii]. And only some manufacturing processes will do the trick.

What are Tinctures?

Tinctures are similar to teas except that instead of soaking something in hot water to release its  flavor and other constituents, the thing is soaked in alcohol (or sometimes vinegar)[iii]. The method works well in herbal medicine, because many (not all) medicinal substances in plants are soluble in alcohol, and alcohol can break down cellulose, freeing whatever is held inside the plant cells. Tinctures are much more concentrated than teas, making them a convenient way to take herbs—especially herbs that don’t taste very good as tea.

Unfortunately, alcohol does not break down chitin, so technically “mushroom tincture” is a bit of an oxymoron; tinctures are extracts, but the process of tincturing won’t extract anything from fungal tissues.

Products sold as mushroom tinctures are either the result of attempting to tincture mushrooms (i.e., mostly mushroom-flavored alcohol), or they are some other kind of mushroom product diluted in alcohol. In either case, the product has little to no bioavailable medicinal substance. While it is possible to make a bioavailable liquid mushroom extract (powdered extracts always go through a liquid stage in production), such a product would be much more dilute than a powdered extract.  In fact, most liquid mushroom products on the market are not bioavailable.

What Are Powdered Extracts?

Powdered mushroom extracts are, ideally, the result of a multi-step process that breaks down the chitin. These are distinct from powders that are simply dehydrated and pulverized raw mushroom tissue—those are not bioavailable. The form of the product, powder or liquid, is not important. What is important is bioavailability. However, bioavailable extracts are generally powders (often packed into pills).

Powdered extract production begins with making a hot water extract (a tea) in a pressurized container. The heat melts the chitin. The pressure prevents some otherwise volatile medicinal substances from evaporating in the heat. Sometimes a second extraction process using alcohol follows the first—once the chitin has been melted, the alcohol picks up substances that are not water-soluble and would otherwise be left behind. Then, the liquid is concentrated and finally dried into powder.

Why Are Powdered Mushroom Extracts Better than Tinctures?

Powdered mushroom extracts are bioavailable and concentrated. Tinctures are usually neither and never both.

Again, the issue is not that the product is in a powder; raw, whole mushroom can also be sold dried and powdered, but in most cases is nearly useless from a health perspective. Most people cannot digest raw mushroom because of the issue with chitin, and most mushroom species are not concentrated foods—even if properly cooked, serving sizes have to be very large for most mushrooms to deliver significant nutritional value, let alone medicinal value. The medicinally-important substances are usually present only in small quantities. There is a reason why virtually all studies showing medicinal effectiveness of mushrooms have used concentrated extracts, not whole mushroom.

Unfortunately, no supplement is going to be labeled “not bioavailable,” or anything else similarly useful. In fact, vague terms, such as “high bioavailability,” or “full spectrum,” or “high quality” are perfectly legal to put on any sort of product. Identifying which products are the real deal can be challenging—the key is to look for detailed ingredient lists that include breakdowns of the specific medicinal substances involved. Purveyors pf low-quality products either can’t provide such information (their production process may be such that their product is inconsistent), or do not want to provide it because it would make them look bad.

It’s important to recognize that fungi are not plants and that the “rules” for recognizing strength and quality for herbal products may not apply to mushrooms. Herbal tinctures are fine, mushroom tinctures are not. Measures of quality familiar from herbal medicine also sometimes appear on mushroom-based products, despite being irrelevant, as a means to distract from poor quality. It is perfectly legal to put irrelevant information on packaging; it’s up to the customer to avoid being misled.

On a related subject, not all powdered mushroom extracts are quality, in part because not all fungi are alike. While it is common enough to use “mushroom” as a synonym for “fungus” is most contexts (and the word has been used that way for much of this article), technically the word “mushroom” refers only to the fruiting body and not to the mycelial network that gives rise to the fruiting body. In some species, the entire fungus—the mycelium and its fruiting bodies—contain medicinal substances, but in others only the fruiting body does. In others, only the mycelium contains those substances. Some products are made from the wrong part of the fungus, or they may include both mushroom and mycelium even if the species in question doesn’t invest both with medicine. The key here is to understand what one is buying and not to be taken in by advertising.

So quality medicinal mushroom products are almost always extract powders, but that does not mean all powders, or even all extract powders, are quality. The key is to become an educated buyer and to read labels carefully.

So which Mushroom Supplement is Best?

This is a bit of a loaded question. However; either a dual extract or a hot water extracted mushroom supplement is almost always the best. A tincture, tea or a mycelium based supplement is never best. You almost always want a hot water extracted mushroom supplement that states Beta-D-Glucans on the label. My favorite Mushroom Supplements are sold by Noomadic Herbals. You can see all their Mushrooms for sale on their website.

My name is Austin Collins.

I've dedicated my life to Mushrooms.

I believe Mushrooms are the best kept secret when it comes to health and well being.

For that reason, I would like to share a company with you that in my opinion makes the best mushroom products on the market. 

The company is called Noomadic Herbals, my favorite supplement they make is called "Mushroom Total".

I take their products every day and they have helped me think better and have more energy. Give them a try.

-Austin

References:

[i] (2016). What You Should Know Before Buying Mushroom Supplements. Medicinal Mushrooms

[ii] (2017). Bioavailability of Medicinal Mushroom Supplements

[iii] Cirino, E. (2019). What You Need to Know About Herbal Tinctures.

31 thoughts on “Mushroom Tinctures vs. Powdered Extracts: Which are Better?”

  1. I’m not sure when this article was written, but it’s been super helpful for me! Thank you for all the insight! I’d been wondering why some products worked really well, and others had little to no effect. Now it makes sense! After doing some of my own research, I came across a tinctured product that uses “Ultrasonic Assisted Extraction” (UAE) and I was wondering if you knew anything about it. Is this real? Would it even work? Or is it still powdered extracts or bust?

    Reply
    • I know nothing about that. I’ll have to look into it. Sounds like someone trying to sell supplements with buzz words, so for now I’d stay clear and stick with my recommended products.

      Reply
  2. hey there !

    I am wondering, what do you think of a double extracted tincture (first with alcohol than with hot water) and you do this with a nammix mushroom powder rather than mushrooms themselves?

    Reply
      • Hi.. im wondering when you wrote this and if you still don’t think the double extract (water/alcohol) process is viable. I’ve been thinking of doing it myself as I’ve been foraging my own turkey tail. and am trying to grow lions mane. and frankly.. can’t afford buying supplements on a regular basis.

        Reply
        • Yes I still hold the same thoughts on extracts. In terms of mushroom preparations I’d rank it Hot Water Extract > Dual Extract > Mycelium Biomass. So a dual extract isn’t the worst, but not the best. Very hard to do your own Extract without proper equipment.

          Reply
  3. Very informative and straight forward article, thanks.
    I was wondering, is a tea made from lion’s mane as effective as the powdered extract?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Thanks Sean!

      Definitely not. The thing about Medicinal Mushrooms is that you need to extract the bio-actives from within the Chitin. You can’t do that without a proper extraction process. So as great as things like Lions Mane are too eat, you won’t get the medicinal benefits that way.

      Reply
  4. Hi Austin. Thanks for the fascinating article. Do you know much about the levels of chitin in ganoderma lucidum? What do you think about the double extraction method as recommended by Steve Harold Buhner?

    Reply
    • Hi Melissa,

      From the Research I’ve done a hot water extraction method & measurement of bio-actives via Beta-D-Glucans is preferred.

      Reply
    • Hi Austin,

      Two questions. If what you are saying is true: How come that tested tinctures do apear to contain what they advertise such as beta glucans?

      Also, if alcohol doesnt break down chitin. Can I then reverse the process to make a tincture? First do a hot water extraction. Freeze the water. And then do the alcohol extraction with the remaining mushroom residue, since the hot water made the alcohol solubol compounds available.

      Reply
      • From my research a tincture will never carry medicinal benefits from mushrooms. Ask the company for a COA and/or lab test and see what they produce!

        Let me know when you find out!

        Reply
  5. Hi Austin
    I live in Ashland, OR and there’s a local company called “Myriad Mycology”. About 3 months ago i started buying all of their ” Bioavailable Mushroom Powders”. They all say 15% Beta Glucen as well as “Other ingredients: Organic Mycelliated Brown Rice”, just like you talked about. I also bought 2 fl oz bottle of “Wildcrafted Turkey Tail Bioavailable Mushrooms Dual-Extracted Tincture” containing “Wildcrafted Fruit body Extract” but doesn’t give an amount. “Other ingredients: local spring water & organic alcohol distilled from organic cane”. It’s a 60ml bottle and says 60 servings (2-4x daily). Im so confused. Ive been taking the 1tsp 2x daily of powdered ones (2000mg per tsp) of “Activated Mushroom Mycelium”. The only one that also says “fruiting bodies is the turkey tail”. I also bought a Host Defense Reishi extract that has both fruiting bodies & mycelium, but not amounts. Im so confused now. I have all these mushroom powders I THOUGHT were good quality as they’re grown right here in Ashland/organic/Wildcrafted…
    Now, I don’t know. I can’t afford $40-50 per bottle. These were around $23-25 per 5.2 oz bag of powder. Out of the Turkey Tail dual-extracted tincture, Reishi liquid extract and the Bioavailable powders, which one is best? I read your article but am now looking at these six bags of powder and thinking I wasted my money. Thank you.
    Tracy

    Reply
    • Hi Tracy,

      Be careful of buzz words like “wildcrafted”. I suggest Noomadic’s Mushrooms because they measure by Beta-D-Glucans and advertise 30% or greater (which is double the Myriad Mycology brand you bought). Host Defense is just junk, complete scam.

      Reply
  6. Thanks for this info!
    I came across your article whilst looking into making my own mushroom tinctures.
    Would a tincture still work if it was double extracted, doing the hot water first, to melt the chitin and then after that’s strained, doing an alcohol extraction?

    Reply
  7. Hi Austin,

    Thanks for your insightful article on tinctures vs powdered extracts. That was very helpful. I’ve noticed that some companies have changed their strategy by using ‘liquid extracts’ instead of tinctures. These are made using a double extraction method (water and alcohol based). What is your take on this approach compared to tinctures? Do these liquid extracts have bioavailable medicinal substance?

    Much appreciate your help on this mushroom journey.

    Ted

    Reply
  8. Hi!
    So I see in your responses to other comments that you dont think tinctures that are made at home would get any of the medicinal benefits of the mushrooms. I guess I am wondering, if I am using a double extraction but I am still not getting anything, whats the point of foraging for these mushrooms? I can’t take then raw, because of their casing it wouldn’t do me any good. I cant process them, so why even bother? LOL i mean, ive found Chaga and turkey tail after weeks and weeks of foraging and now I feel like that was just a huge waste of time. How can I turn what I have found into something beneficial for me without having to spend money to buy supplements from another company? Thats the whole point of foraging right? to be able to help myself without having to rely on any company.

    Reply
    • Those are fair questions Lisa. Some people enjoy Mushroom tea and it would have some benefits it just wouldn’t have all of the medicinal benefits. There are also many great culinary Mushrooms you can find in the wild. Lions Mane while people seek it for medicinal benefits is also sought after to cook and eat as well.

      Reply

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